After one of the most controversial calls in NFL history occurred on the final play of Monday night’s game between the Packers and the Seahawks, it’s no surprise there were strong reactions from many within the Ravens locker room on Tuesday.
Many players elected to speak off the record, but safety Ed Reed has never been one to shy away from speaking his mind, whether it ruffles feathers or not. The 34-year-old admits he did not stay awake to see the controversial awarding of a touchdown to Seattle on a Hail Mary pass from Russell Wilson to Golden Tate despite the fact that Green Bay defensive back M.D. Jennings appeared to have secured an interception on the final play of the game.
However, Reed saw the replay Tuesday morning and echoed sentiments shared by teammates Joe Flacco and Ray Lewis, who have questioned the overall integrity of the game with replacement officials being placed in charge during preseason games and the first three weeks of the regular season.
“We all saw that guy had the ball,” Reed said. “They should have called pass interference first on Tate. But that’s what’s been going on with these refs. It’s like Joe said, there’s an integrity part about the game that they expect the players to uphold. Protect the shield like they always tell us, but they don’t protect the shield when it comes to the owners and everybody else getting money. It’s not for the refs, it’s not for the players. When I went through my thing in the offseason, everybody coming at my head, but I speak the truth.”
Reed spoke publicly several times during the offseason about players receiving poor treatment, though it was never clearly expressed whether his issues were with the Ravens organization specifically or the NFL in general. Of course, the veteran also hinted strongly about his desire for a new long-term contract and his wish to be treated fairly.
With the Ravens set to host the Cleveland Browns on Thursday night, they experience a quick turnaround after playing a Sunday night game. Many players around the league have shared disdain for Thursday games, and Reed pointed out what he feels to be the real motivation behind the weekly game televised on the NFL Network.
“I never liked the Thursday night games, even when they came out,” Reed said. “It’s all about money. Like I said, it’s out of our hands.”
With commissioner Roger Goodell and the league publicly promoting player safety over the last few years, the initiative to stage a Thursday night game every week this season — Thursday contests didn’t begin until November in past years — can easily be interpreted as hypocritical in the players’ eyes.
Balancing act or not?
A week after drawing the ire of fans and media alike for a perceived failure to involve Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice enough in the offense in a loss at Philadelphia, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has received praise for the improved balance he found between the pass and the run in the Ravens’ 31-30 win over the New England Patriots.
Of the 65 plays the Baltimore offense ran, Rice received 20 carries on his way to a 101-yard rushing day while quarterback Joe Flacco threw for 382 yards on 39 pass attempts. The establishment of Rice on the ground helped create room down the field as New England’s safeties had to inch closer to the line of scrimmage in run support.
Many assume this is the balance the Ravens are after ever week, but Cameron took an interesting stance on the assumption for what his offense needs to do to be successful.
“We’re always wanting to be as balanced as we can be, but it’s not going to be the same every week,” Cameron said. “I think we know that. Balance isn’t as big of a priority for us as it is for everybody else. It’s about attacking the defense we’re playing. We may throw it every down some game. If we think that’s what we need to do to win the game, that’s what we’re going to do.”
Through three games, Rice has 46 carries, which is actually five more than he had through Week 3 of last season. The two-time Pro Bowl back finished with a career-high 1,364 rushing yards and led the NFL in yards from scrimmage with 2,068.
After the organization awarded Rice with a five-year, $40 million contract that includes $24 million guaranteed, it’s apparent Cameron and the Ravens are committed to protecting their investment for the long term and will not wear blinders to that notion every week.
“If we as a staff gave Ray Rice the ball as much as everybody wants us to, he would wind up like the rest of the backs in this league,” Cameron said. “We’re not going to let that happen. I think there’s a sweet spot on how much you can use a three-down back in this business over a 20-game-plus season. We think we’ve found that sweet spot for him.
“It will vary a little bit from week to week, but you can’t find many backs in this league that can last 16, 20 games, much less [for] five seasons. So, I think we’ve got a good feel for what is best for him and what is best for us.”
If history is any indication, Rice should expect to receive plenty of opportunities against the Browns Thursday night as they’re tied for 22nd against the run. In two games against Cleveland last season, Rice carried 52 times for 291 yards.
When the teams met in Cleveland last season, Rice rushed for a career-high 204 yards as Baltimore set a franchise record for rushing attempts in the 24-10 victory.
But that doesn’t mean the Ravens will use a similar game plan, according to the offensive coordinator.
“We ran it 55 times last year against Cleveland, because that’s what we needed to do,” Cameron said. “Balance is, I think, something we’ll look at at the end of the year. We want to be balanced over the course of time, but every given week, in all likelihood, we’re not going to be balanced.”
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: LB Brendon Ayanbadejo (knee), T Jah Reid (calf), CB Lardarius Webb (knee)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Mohamed Massaquoi (hamstring), TE Alex Smith (head)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: DB Sheldon Brown (chest), WR Joshua Cribbs (knee), LB James-Michael Johnson (ribs/oblique), DB Ray Ventrone (hand)
FULL PARTICIPATION: OL Jason Pinkston (ankle), DL Frostee Rucker (wrist), RB Trent Richardson (knee), LS Christian Yount (shoulder)